THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the Opposition creating a ruckus in the Assembly on Monday over the budget leak row, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the Cabinet would take appropriate action after getting a detailed inqury report from the chief secretary. He told the House earlier that he had already got a report from the chief secretary and that there was no breach of privilege as alleged by the Opposition. However, a slip had occurred on the part of the finance minister’s office in distributing the budget highlights to the press before the Budget presentation was over.
While the Opposition held finance minister Thomas Isaac responsible for the leakage and accused him of trying to save himself by putting the blame on a staff member, the Chief Minister defended him stating that the Opposition was trying to malign the welfare-oriented budget. Following the Opposition’s protest in the well of the House after the speaker denied permission for an adjournment motion, the House was suspended for about 30 minutes. As the proceedings of the day began, Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala demanded that the question hour should be suspended to discuss the budget leak. But Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan denied it citing that the Opposition’s notice for the adjournment motion would be considered during zero hour.
Replying to the adjournment motion moved by V.D. Satheesan, the finance minister said that since the annual finance statement or any related documents were not leaked out, there was no question of breach of privilege or oath. “It was by mistake that the highlights were released before the budget speech was over. There was no wilful intention, no loss was caused to the government and none gained anything. A newspaper speculated on the tax reforms as the government had already announced that there would be certain relaxations in some sectors,” Mr. Isaac said. He also cited that during the previous instances of alleged budget leakages also, the issue was settled with explanations by the then finance minister.
Mr Chennithala, who demanded a detailed probe into the issue, said that the budget was leaked owing to the lack of alertness by the finance minister. Sharing the budget details with the minister’s personal staff was even a violation. “Who knows who all might have received the details of the budget in advance and who all might have benefited from it. Hence a detailed probe was required,” he said. Mr Satheesan alleged that unlike previous instances of budget leakages, in this case the finance minister was directly involved in the leak. It amounted to the breach of oath, privileges and the Official Secrets Act, he alleged.